Author’s Note: Four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles leads the field by nearly three points after night one of competition at U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials in St. Louis, Missouri. (Video of all four of Biles’ night one routines are embedded above.)
Here’s a quick refresher on how Simone Biles – the greatest gymnast of all time – actually became the greatest gymnast of all time.
Simone Biles: The Greatest Gymnast of All Time (aka GOAT)
Earlier this year, Simone Biles showed up to both the 2021 U.S. Classic and 2021 U.S. Championships wearing leotards bedazzled with goats. And it wasn’t even the first time Biles competed in a GOAT-themed leo.
If any other gymnast made that fashion choice, it would be perceived as arrogant, overconfident, or just plain inaccurate. But for Biles? It’s a fact. There’s no arguing that she’s the GOAT.
Biles, 24, hasn’t lost an all-around competition since 2013, the same year she made her senior debut. At the 2013 American Cup, Biles placed second to Katelyn Ohashi. A few weeks later, she finished behind Kyla Ross at the 2013 Chemnitz Friendly.
She’s gone undefeated in the all-around competitions since, winning a record seven U.S. all-around titles and record five world championship all-around titles.
In 2014, Biles became the first American woman to win four titles at a single world championships, a feat she then repeated in 2015 and 2018. In 2019, she outdid even herself, winning five world titles.
Biles also owns the records for most medals in world championship history (25) and world titles (19). And quick reminder: this is even more impressive given that women only compete on four events, while men have six events on which to win medals.
ALSO FROM ON HER TURF: U.S. Olympic team for Tokyo features record number of women
The four(!) skills named after Simone Biles
Biles has four skills named after her in the women’s code of points, and it’s likely a fifth will be added when she competes at the Tokyo Olympics.
- Biles’ first eponymous skill came on floor: a double layout with a half twist. It was added to the code of points in 2013.
- At the 2018 World Championships, Biles performed a new vault: a roundoff entry with a half twist onto the table, followed by a laid-out somersault with two additional twists. And in case you forgot, Biles accomplished this feat after a kidney stone(!) caused her to visit the emergency room the night before competition started.
- Biles debuted two skills at the 2019 World Championships: a triple-double on floor (three twists with two flips, done in a tucked position). Because it was the second floor skill named after her, it was dubbed “The Biles II.” It became the first skill in the women’s code of points to receive a “J” value (meaning it received a full point). Previously, skills only went from A (0.1 points) through I (0.9 points).
- Also at 2019 Worlds, Biles performed a double-twisting double-back dismount on balance beam. This skill was controversially given an “H” by the international federation that oversees gymnastics (FIG), a decision Biles called “bull—-.”
At the 2021 U.S. Classic, Biles debuted her new Yurchenko double pike, becoming the first woman to compete it. (Given how difficult it is, she is also likely the first woman to train it.)
What exactly is a Yurchenko double pike?
In any Yurchenko vault, the gymnast does a round-off onto the springboard, back handspring onto the vaulting table, and then flips into the air.
Most gymnasts add difficulty by incorporating twists to their single flip. In the past, Biles has done an Amanar vault: a Yurchenko with two-and-a-half twists.
But instead of twisting, Biles’ new vault includes a second flip, done in a pike position.
Because the vault is new, USA Gymnastics submitted it to FIG for a provisional value. FIG gave it a 6.6, but Biles believes it is worth 6.8. U.S. high-performance team coordinator Tom Forster agrees. “It’s undervalued at a 6.6,” he said after Biles debuted the skill in May.
When asked why perform the vault despite its lower-than-expected value, Biles replied: “Because I can.”
If Biles competes the vault at the Tokyo Olympics (she has said she plans to), it will become the fifth skill named after her.
Records Simone Biles could break at the Tokyo Olympics
Biles already owns five Olympic medals (four gold, one bronze) from the 2016 Rio Games. And she could return home from the Tokyo Olympics with an even bigger haul.
Biles is expected to enter Tokyo as the gold medal favorite in four individual events (all-around, floor, vault, and beam). Biles is also expected to lead the U.S. to a third straight Olympic gold medal in the team event.
Here’s a look at two of the biggest records Biles could break in Tokyo:
- American record for most career Olympic gold medals won by a woman (in any sport)
- The current record – 8 gold medals – is held by swimmer Jenny Thompson
- International record for most career Olympic gold medals won by a woman (in any sport)
- The current record – 9 gold medals – is held by Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, who won the eighth and ninth gold medals of her career in 1964 (the last time Tokyo hosted the Olympics)
Biles could also become the first American woman (in any sport) to win five gold medals at a single Games.
There are also some gymnastics-specific Olympic records Biles could break:
- Biles has the potential to tie or break the record for most individual gold medals in gymnastics. The current record is seven (held by Czech gymnast Vera Caslavska) and Biles will enter Tokyo with three gold medals from individual events.
- Biles could also become the first woman to win back-to-back Olympic all-around titles since Caslavska accomplished the feat more than 50 years ago (1968).
But of course, before Biles makes Olympic history, she has to actually qualify for the Olympics.
Ok, so how do gymnasts qualify for the U.S. Olympic team?
At the end of U.S. Olympic Trials on Sunday, six women will be named to the U.S. delegation for the Tokyo Olympics:
Olympic team event (4 U.S. gymnasts):
- First place in the all-around at U.S. Olympic Trials (very likely Simone Biles, given she hasn’t lost an all-around competition since 2013)
- Second place in the all-around at U.S. Olympic Trials
- Selected by committee
- Selected by committee
Individual Olympic spots (2 U.S. gymnasts):
In a change since Rio, two spots are also available for individuals. These athletes will still be part of the U.S. delegation, but they won’t be allowed to compete in the team event.
- Jade Carey (mathematically clinched via 2018-2020 apparatus World Cup series, more here)
- Selected by committee
For more on which gymnasts are likely to make the U.S. Olympic team, read this.
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